DUBLIN manager, Anthony Daly, has a greater understanding than most of the state of play and the influences that could shape things in the championship in Leinster.
Time and experience have armed him. He has experience from both sides of the street. Go back 12 months and his Dublin squad was ravaged by injuries during the assault on the O’Keeffe and McCarthy Cups.
They charged into the Leinster final and All-Ireland semi-final, but despite an abundance of skill and ever greater defiance, defeat was their lot on both occasions. These times, it is all hands on deck.
Consequently, expectations explode around the National League champions of last season.
Meanwhile, misfortune in the shape of injuries is the plague in the Kilkenny camp. Uncertainty fuels speculation about vulnerability.
Daly has heard the talk. The word of the injuries he knows to be largely true. The meaning of it all? Not particularly relevant, he would suggest.
He looked to Portlaois on Saturday and what is shaping up to be a thunderous head-to-head with Kilkenny in the Leinster senior hurling championship semi-final feeling his charges, however well armed, however well prepared, however well driven, have much to prove.
“This is a massive challenge for us,” was the straight forward summary from Daly, a former All-Ireland winning captain with Clare.
“We are looking forward to it. We have prepared unbelievably hard for the game. The work the lads have put in has been incredible, but we know we would need things to fall our way to have any chance.”
He pointed to history and the one defeat in 14 years suffered by Kilkenny. They “got caught then”, he suggested. That was 2004. A last minute goal scored by Wexford turned the match on his head.
Every other game Kilkenny have won, he reminded.
“The only other real time I remember them being pushed in Leinster was the first time Galway came in and played them in Tullamore,” the Dublin boss continued. “We are not foolhardy. We know the challenge that awaits us.
“We did everything we possibly could this year. We could not do more. How ready our lads who have come back from injury (Conal Keaney, Stephen Hiney and Tomas Brady) are for a battle like this only time will tell.”
He explained that the ‘cruciate trio’, as the players have become known, have got a bit of training time under their belt, a couple of club game and the Laois match in the last round was a big help too.
Still, Daly has not lost sight of the dangers of the challenge. Recently they played Cork a challenge match. Cork beat them.
“Kilkenny wiped the floor with Cork in the League final,” he said as he tried to paint context. “That game was over after 10 minutes. The reality of the situation is that if Kilkenny have a down day and we manage to hit top gear we will be in with an outside chance.
The combination to win
“It will probably take that combination of events to occur if we are to win.”
A self serving summary, some would suggest. Maybe? Daly added meat to the bones of his argument.
“The media nationally are sort of building us up,” he said when he took up the story from a different direction. “They are all desperate for something new to happen, for someone new to come along in hurling.
“The Kilkenny lads are conservative by nature, in terms of what they say to the press and so on. But what new can they say, anyway? A lot of the national media fellows are saying this will be a big event in hurling. “They are basing that analysis on very little, really. Okay, we beat Kilkenny in the League final last year, but they were missing some marquee names. We had everyone available.
“How tuned in were Kilkenny for that League final I am not so sure. In fact, subsequent events would lead you to think their sights were on a bigger prize. That defeat probably proved to be a blessing for them. They moved easier through the championship subsequently.
“Look, we are realistic, but we are very hopeful that we will give a big account of ourselves. That is the bottom line with us. The players have worked desperately hard and they are ready.”
Without being disrespectful to any other county, Kilkenny and Dublin fans were looking to June 23 and Portlaois from the day the Leinster championship draw was made.
Daly stayed off the bandwagon. Without a proper concentration on June 2 and the test with Laois there would be no day out on June 23.
Continued on page 4